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Whatever happens Saturday will simply be resume-padding for Knicks Go. His retirement home has been picked out, his stud fee has been set and he’s in the relatively small club of thoroughbreds with multiple Breeders’ Cup race victories including last year’s Classic.
There’s not much left to prove.
“I would think that he’s probably worthy of being in the Hall of Fame now,” trainer Brad Cox said.
He’s probably right — but just in case, Knicks Go has one last chance to add to his legacy.
His final race is Saturday, when he’ll be the likely favorite in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. He could become the first back-to-back Pegasus winner, and a victory would make him the 10th North American thoroughbred to break the $10 million mark in career earnings.
“He’s accomplished so much. He doesn’t owe us anything,” Cox said. “I’m hoping he can go out on a high note with a win. We’ve got to get through Saturday, but I would be extremely happy for the horse if he can retire sound, healthy and happy.”
Knicks Go will face a field of nine, though in the eyes of handicappers and probably most bettors, it’s basically a field of two. Knicks Go was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite, just ahead of Life Is Good at 7-5. No other horse was given better early odds than Chess Chief at 10-1.
Life Is Good was considered the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby last year before he was taken off the Triple Crown trail following an ankle injury that required surgery. He’s raced six times with five wins and one second-place finish by a neck.
“He’s very good,” Cox said of Life Is Good. “I mean, it’s no secret. He’s a very, very good colt. ... It’s going to be a great matchup. I think it’s great for racing and I’m interested in seeing it myself. I know who I’m rooting for. It’s very good for racing and I’m excited about the race.”
There are some notable parallels between Knicks Go and Life Is Good. Neither competed in a Triple Crown race; Knicks Go was winless in eight races as a 3-year-old, Life Is Good was hurt. Both have speed that simply sets them apart from most challengers. And both have a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile win on their record, with Knicks Go winning it in 2020 and Life Is Good winning it last year.
“I think anytime we can have these kind of big matchups, and especially in a huge race at the beginning of the year, it’s great for the sport,” Life Is Good trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Knicks Go went to the front right away in last year’s Pegasus, breaking from the No. 4 post in the field of 10 and not having much problem holding off any challengers. Knicks Go drew the inside post on Saturday — probably not ideal, though Cox said he wasn’t overly worried about it — and Life Is Good will start from that No. 4 post.
If the race plays out as past performances would suggest, both will get near the lead early. And from there, who knows.
“That’s the $3 million question, right?” Pletcher said. “That’s what we’re getting ready to find out.”
Knicks Go enters the race with just under $8.7 million in career earnings. The rest of the field — which includes a Breeders’ Cup winner in Life Is Good and a past Belmont Stakes winner in Sir Winston — has combined career earnings of $5.2 million.
Technically, all North American thoroughbreds are considered born on Jan. 1. Knicks Go was foaled on Jan. 29, 2016, meaning he actually turns 6 on Saturday.
Knicks Go has already checked out his retirement home. He spent a few days in the fall at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, where he’ll stand stud for the relatively modest price — for a horse of his caliber, anyway — of $30,000.
ALSO ON CARD
There are two other races as part of the Pegasus World Cup program on Saturday.
Colonel Liam (3-1) is the early favorite in a field of 12 entered in the Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus Turf. Regal Glory (2-1) is the morning-line favorite out of 11 entrants in the Grade 3, $500,000 Pegasus Filly And Mare Turf.
Pletcher saddles both Colonel Liam and Life Is Good, and will have jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard both of those horses Saturday.
Heat won’t be an issue Saturday in South Florida. Forecasters are saying some of the coldest weather in years is expected this weekend, with high temperatures at Gulfstream Park on Saturday not expected to get out of the upper 50s. That’ll be about 20 degrees cooler than it was for last year’s Pegasus running.
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